When my husband was in the final stages of his life, we talked about where he would like his ashes scattered. Most of them are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, but there’s a thimble-full in a few places (with a few other places to go), and some of his ashes – a special last minute request from his nibs – were sent into space. Sounds morbid, but we were both raised Catholic and grew up getting a regular dose of ‘remember man that dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return.’ And thinking where you want a bit-een of yourself to end up is an interesting process.
One place I’d like a smidge of my ashes – and I do mean nothing more than a couple of grains – is Fenway Park.
So I fully understand any fan who has an in memoriam wish to get taken out to the ball game.
But one NY Mets fan is being sprinkled around in a slightly less orthodox manner than I have in mind for my Fenway Park ash-drop.
Roy Riegel died nine years ago (on the day of the Mets home opener, no less), and his boyhood friend and fellow baseball fan, Tom McDonald, decided to honor his pal:
…by disposing of Mr. Riegel’s ashes in ballparks across the country. Even more unusual was his chosen method: flushing them down public restroom toilets in the ballparks between innings. (Source: NY Times)
It may sound a tad crude, but it’s fitting. Riegel, after all, was a plumber. So far, a bit of Roy Riegel has been piped out through the plumbing of 16 stadiums.
McDonald has also spread some ash-based cheer on “a marker designating Shea Stadium’s original home plate location” (a few years ago, Shea - where the Mets historically played - was replaced by Citi Field), and in the schoolyard at PS 70 in Astoria Queens, where Riegel and McDonald played as kids.
“It’s funny — not in a joke way — but funny that it was exactly like Roy would have wanted it,’’ Mr. McDonald said.
Death and dying ain’t what they used to be. I don’t imagine that there are too many open casket wakes and six-feet under ceremonies at St. Something’s Cemetery in my future. That generation is dying out – literally – and, contemporary die-ees are more likely to go the accelerated ashes-to-ashes root – none of this moldering around in an almost air-tight coffin for a few years until, inevitably, the worms crawl in and the worms crawl out. Folks these days are more apt to take the express lane to infinity and be cremated.
I believe that, if you’re a Catholic, the Church wants your ashes to stay together and be buried in one place. The better, I guess, to be prepared for the resurrection of the body. I actually don’t see why the cremains’ location matters all that much. If your ashes are going to be transmogrified back into your body, well, that’s pretty much a miracle in my book. And if miracles can happen, surely those ashes can be brought back together for the final roll up, wherever they ended up – even if that was swept out with a flush of the toilet in Flushing Meadows. The more apt question, of course, may be the one my Grandmother Rogers would ask: at just what age would your body come back at? Nanny lived to be 97, and she had zero desire to spend eternity with sparse hair, missing teeth, batwing arms and crepe-y skin that felt like talcum powder. Nanny wanted to come back as a handsome girl, not an old crone.
Anyway, as the Boomers start to check out in greater numbers, it’s easy to envision more and more of us coming up with our ash bucket lists. And that means more ashes in ball parks.
Today, they wand you and search your bags for booze. In the not too distant future, they may be looking for baggies with a bit of crumby grey-ish white matter in them. My sisters will have to be careful, but I’m sure they’ll find a way.
A tip of the old ball cap to my sister Kath for pointing this article my way. Kath isn’t much of a sports fan, but I wouldn’t mind her accompanying Trish when they go to sprinkle a final bit of the final me onto the warning track in center field. If they ever replace Fenway Park, I’ll have to come up with another plan.